Our Best Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar

If you have ever tasted balsamic vinegar then you will know how delicious it is. It can completely uplift and enhance a dish you have made.

It is a perfect addition to so many recipes, and it is something that you always want to have at hand in your kitchen.

Balsamic vinegar originated in Italy during the Italian Renaissance. True balsamic vinegar is regulated and can be produced only in the areas of Reggio and Modena in the country. The first written historical record to balsamic vinegar was in 1046 when a bottle of the delicious stuff was presented to Emperor Enrico III as a gift.

In the Middle Ages, balsamic vinegar was wisely used to disinfect things, and it had a bit of a reputation for being somewhat of a miracle cure. Specifically, balsamic vinegar was used to help everything from labor pains to sore throats. So vinegar has been used as a health remedy for a long time. But, we have all been there before, you have created a fantastic meal, only for it to be missing your favorite ingredient – balsamic vinegar.

If you have run out, do not be too disheartened. Thankfully there are some alternatives you can choose to use instead.

While these alternatives will not taste quite as good as balsamic vinegar, some resemble the taste quite well, and they are a great alternative if you cannot get your hands on balsamic vinegar. In this article, we have talked you through many of these options in more detail. We have also discussed what ingredients you will need to mix together to achieve great balsamic vinegar substitutes.

What is Balsamic Vinegar?

To get a better understanding of what ingredients will make for a good balsamic vinegar substitute you should be aware of what balsamic vinegar is and what it tastes like in order to replicate it well. Balsamic vinegar is known for its rich color and distinctive taste. Unlike some types of vinegar that are quite sour, balsamic vinegar is particularly palatable. It has a fairly mild and full taste. It is quite sweet, and it originates in Italy. It is matured in wooden barrels, and it is made using unfermented grape juice. Given the way in which it is matured, it does tend to be significantly more expensive when compared to other types of vinegar, such as apple or white wine. As it does have a distinct taste, balsamic vinegar is not the easiest ingredient to replace in a recipe, but it can be somewhat replicated.

Balsamic vinegar is a versatile, barrel-aged vinegar that originates from Italy, specifically the regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Made from unfermented grape juice, also known as grape must, it is a popular ingredient in various culinary creations.

The unique flavor and color of balsamic vinegar are products of the aging process. The grape must is initially cooked down, concentrating the flavors. Afterward, the vinegar is stored in wooden barrels for several years. As it ages, the vinegar absorbs flavors from the wood, leading to a complex and rich taste. The wooden barrels also contribute to balsamic vinegar’s signature brown color.

Traditional balsamic vinegar follows strict production methods and can be aged for over 12 years. Additionally, top-quality balsamic vinegar can be aged up to 25 years, resulting in an even more intense flavor. As the vinegar ages, it becomes slightly sweeter due to evaporation and the maturation process.

In your culinary endeavors, you will find that balsamic vinegar is highly adaptable and can be used as a sweetener, a salad dressing, or a marinade. Its distinct and complex flavor profile, combined with a bold, brown color, make it an essential ingredient in many recipes. As you explore the world of balsamic vinegar, remember its roots in Italy and the traditional methods that contribute to the creation of this remarkable ingredient.

Cider Vinegar and Sugar

In order to create a good balsamic vinegar substitute, you will ideally want to use a different type of vinegar. While other vinegar has a stronger taste, when you add different ingredients it can be sweetened slightly. The first substitute that is great to try is mixing cider vinegar and sugar together. For each tablespoon of cider vinegar you use, you will want to use half a teaspoon of sugar. You can use either granulated sugar or brown sugar to mix with the milk. However, brown sugar may be a slightly better option as it has a darker color which will add to the overall look of the cider vinegar. Brown sugar derives from molasses. When thinking about the taste of balsamic vinegar, it does resemble the taste of molasses, so brown sugar is a good option. To ensure that the sugar has mixed with the vinegar well, you can choose to heat them both up in a saucepan on a medium heat for a few minutes.

You do not want the mixture to be brought to the boil. This will create more of a balsamic vinegar type glaze when it has been reduced. While this will not taste exactly like balsamic vinegar, the sweetness of the sugar will counterbalance the sharpness of the cider vinegar. It is a good substitute if you have both ingredients in your pantry.

Red Wine Vinegar and Maple Syrup

In a similar vein to apple cider vinegar and sugar, red wine vinegar is a suitable substitute for balsamic vinegar.

In comparison to apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar has a similar color to balsamic, and resembles it a little better. In general, red wine vinegar does have a fuller and tangier taste than balsamic, but when you add a little sweetness to it, this does mellow out some of the flavor. It is important to ensure that you use the correct amount of each ingredient. Maple syrup tends to be the best ingredient to add to white wine vinegar because it has a thicker consistency and a well-rounded flavor.

As it is a syrup already, you will not have to worry about having to heat it up in order for the ingredients to mix. For every four parts of red wine vinegar, you will want to add one part maple syrup. While you can add slightly more if you prefer the balsamic substitute to be sweet, you will risk it becoming too sweet and losing some of its tangy flavor. If you do not have any maple syrup in your pantry, you can substitute it for honey, if you prefer a healthier option. This recipe can also work with brown sugar too, but this will need to be heated up in order for it to mix well.

White Vinegar and Sugar

If you do not have any apple cider or red wine vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar as a substitute. You can use other types of vinegar, such as rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar, or cane vinegar too. White wine vinegar is more subdued than other types of vinegar. It is not too strong, and it is not too sweet. Given this, it is a great option overall. When mixing sugar and white wine vinegar, you will need to add one part of sugar to every four or five parts of vinegar, depending on how sweet you want the balsamic substitute to be.

As the sugar will not dissolve in the vinegar, you will need to heat the mixture up slightly for a few minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

If you have balsamic vinaigrette in your pantry, this is brilliant news as this contains balsamic vinegar. While it is not solely balsamic vinegar as it is typically mixed with olive oil, it is one of the best replacements for balsamic vinegar in recipes. Olive oil is often mixed with balsamic vinegar for certain recipes, and particularly if you are maxing a salad dressing. Given this, it is a great substitute.

As it does contain olive oil, this can change the taste of your recipe slightly, but not in a dramatic way. It is likely that you will need to add oil to your recipe anyway, so balsamic vinaigrette is a great substitute to use. As it contains balsamic vinegar it will provide you with the exact flavor you want too. When using balsamic vinaigrette, you will want to use the same amount as you would balsamic vinegar, and the ratio should be 1:1. If we had to choose between all the substitutes featured in this article, balsamic vinaigrette, is definitely the best option.

Soy Sauce, Lemon Juice, and Molasses

You may be looking at these three ingredients and wondering how they could possibly resemble balsamic vinegar, especially considering that soy sauce has such a strong and distinctive taste.

However, when these three ingredients are combined, they make for a great balsamic vinegar substitute. As we have mentioned above, balsamic vinegar does have a taste that slightly resembles molasses. Given this, using molasses as a substitute to try and replicate the flavor of balsamic vinegar just makes sense.

In addition to this, the color of the soy sauce and molasses is similar to balsamic vinegar, and the soy sauce is a good base. When all of these ingredients are mixed together, they provide a similar consistency. While you may think that adding lemons is an interesting choice, lemons are very acidic. A certain amount of acidity is needed because vinegar is acidic, and you will want to replicate this.

Given this, lemons are a great choice. While they are bitter, and sour, the taste is not overpowering, and once added to the mixture, you cannot taste the lemon flavor a lot. Ideally, you will want to add equal parts of each ingredient to create the balsamic substitute, although you can change up the amounts you add according to your own personal preferences.

Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Sugar

If you are really struggling to find ingredients that are similar to balsamic vinegar, there are ways in which you can replicate this taste to an extent. In order to do this you will need lemon juice, lime juice, and sugar. However, if for example you only have lemon juice, or lime juice then you can choose to just use one of these.

In addition to this, if you do not have sugar, you can use a different type of sweetener too, such as molasses, honey, treacle, or cane sugar, for example. The most important thing you will need is something that is acidic, and something that is sweet. By adding the lemons and the limes this will give you the acidic taste that vinegar does, and the sweetness will resemble the sweetness of the balsamic. While this is not a perfect replica, once these ingredients have been added to your recipe, you will notice that they have made a difference.

Again, if you are using granulated or brown sugar, you will need to heat the mixture up slightly for a few minutes to ensure that the ingredients are mixed together well. You will want to ensure that you do not bring the ingredients to the boil. There is not a set amount of each ingredient that you will need to use, but we would recommend using equal parts and adding slightly more of one or the other depending on your 9personal preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some alternatives for balsamic vinegar in a marinade?

If you need a substitute for balsamic vinegar in a marinade, you have several options. Some alternatives include red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of sugar or honey. Soy sauce mixed with red wine vinegar can also be a suitable replacement for balsamic vinegar.

Can rice vinegar replace balsamic vinegar?

Yes, you can use rice vinegar as a substitute for balsamic vinegar, especially in recipes that call for a milder and less sweet flavor. However, you may need to add a little sugar or honey to achieve the desired sweetness of balsamic vinegar. Adjust the amounts to match your taste preferences.

Is there a red wine substitute for balsamic vinegar?

Yes, red wine vinegar can be used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar. To get a closer flavor to balsamic, try adding a small amount of sugar or honey to the red wine vinegar. This will help mimic the sweetness of balsamic vinegar.

Can white wine vinegar be used instead of balsamic vinegar?

White wine vinegar can be used in place of balsamic vinegar, especially when a lighter flavor and color are desired. To get a similar taste as balsamic vinegar, you can add a bit of sugar or honey to the white wine vinegar.

How can I create balsamic vinegar using apple cider vinegar?

To make a balsamic vinegar substitute using apple cider vinegar, you can mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and sugar or honey. Heat the mixture gently until the sugar dissolves, and then let it cool before using it in place of balsamic vinegar.

Is it possible to make balsamic vinegar from red wine?

While it’s not possible to create true balsamic vinegar from red wine, you can create a similar flavor by mixing red wine vinegar with sugar or honey. Heat the mixture gently until the sugar dissolves and then let it cool. This mixture can be used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar in recipes.

Can you use regular vinegar instead of balsamic vinegar?

While regular vinegar is not the best substitute for balsamic vinegar, it can be used. Other types of vinegar, such as red wine vinegar and cider vinegar are better options, but if regular vinegar is the only available option, there are ways to make it suitable.

In general, regular vinegar has a much stronger taste in comparison to balsamic vinegar. Given this, rather than using the regular vinegar on its own, you will want to mix it with a small amount of sugar.

While this will not replicate the taste of balsamic vinegar fully, it will help to lift the flavor of the recipe you are using it for. As balsamic vinegar has such a distinct taste, it is difficult to replicate completely.

Can I use Worcestershire sauce instead of balsamic vinegar?

Yes, Worcestershire sauce is another substitute that can work well in different recipes as a substitute for balsamic vinegar. While it may not be the option you would choose first, it is a useful substitute.

If you are making pasta dishes, such as Bolognese or lasagna, Worcester sauce can be a great substitute instead of balsamic vinegar. While it does not taste exactly the same, it is full of flavor and certainly adds to a meal.

What is great about Worcestershire sauce is that it has both a sweet and tangy taste similar to balsamic vinegar. In addition to this, it does have a similar consistency.

While this is a great substitute, and is a common condiment in the UK, it is a lot more difficult to source in the US. However, it still can be purchased online, and in certain stores. If it is something you have not yet tried, we would definitely recommend it.

Can I substitute soy sauce for balsamic vinegar?

Yes, you can substitute soy sauce for balsamic vinegar. However, as we have mentioned in our article, while it can be used, it may not be the best substitute on its own. This is because vinegar and soy sauce do have different properties.

As such, we would recommend mixing soy sauce with a few different ingredients to best replicate the taste of balsamic vinegar instead of using it solely. Our personal preference is soy sauce, lemon juice and molasses. This helps to create a taste resembling soy sauce, and a good consistency.

While these three ingredients are a great combination, you can choose to use lime instead of lemon juice, if you prefer the taste. Although molasses is a great substitute given that it resembles the taste of balsamic vinegar to an extent, you can use ingredients such as brown or white sugar too.


We hope that you have found this article helpful. As you can see, there are a number of different ingredients that you can use to help replicate the taste of balsamic vinegar if you have run out. The most important thing to remember is that you will need a slightly acidic and sweet taste to best replicate it. While balsamic vinaigrette is the best substitute as it already contains balsamic vinegar, using other types of vinegar with sugar, honey, or other sweeteners is a great idea too. If you do not have any other types of vinegar in your pantry, as a last resort you can choose to use lemon juice, lime juice and sugar. While it is not the perfect substitute, it will give you the tangy taste and sweetness that is needed in your recipe.

Balsamic vinegar

Our Best Substitute for Balsamic Vinegar

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 4 votes
Total Time 8 minutes
Course Seasoning, Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 147 kcal


  • Cider Vinegar and Sugar
  • Red Wine Vinegar and Maple Syrup
  • White Vinegar and Sugar
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Soy Sauce Lemon Juice, and Molasses
  • Lemon Juice Lime Juice, and Sugar


  • Try our kitchen tested balsamic vinegar substitutes.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 147kcal
Keyword balsamic vinegar substitute, substitute for balsamic vinegar
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us
Latest posts by Cassie Marshall (see all)